If I shrink wrap my life—curate it, caption it—to fit squares on a screen, how do I know what’s real?
If I filter my life—sanitize it, edit it—to garner approval from others, how do I know what’s true?
I open Instagram and in a span of about ten minutes I ask my heart and mind to process life, death, and everything in between.
I see babies being evacuated from a NICU in Ukraine, but I can’t feel their small fingers grasping mine or hear the beeping of their monitors or watch the slow drip of IV fluids into their bloodstreams.
I see a food blogger presenting The Best Ever chocolate cake, but I can’t push my fork into its pillowy softness or taste its decadence or hear the clink of dishes as she cleans up the mess.
I see a newborn wrapped in a towel—“Baby’s first bath!”—but I can’t feel the weight of the child or hear water running into the porcelain tub or smell the sweet scented lotion on her skin.
I see someone (someone I have never met in real life) on vacation in California, but I can’t hear the crashing of ocean waves or feel the sun on my skin or taste the crunchy tacos eaten after a swim.
I see a friend from high school walking down the aisle towards her groom, but I can’t hear the notes of Pachelbel’s Canon in D or taste the tingle of champagne on my tongue during toasts or feel the smooth satin of her wedding dress as I give her a hug.
I see families driving away from Ukraine in droves, their taillights creating a sorrowful string of Christmas lights, but I can’t hear the panic in their voices or see their trembling hands grip the steering wheel or hold their crying children in the backseat. The children they love just as much as I love mine.
I close the app and say a short prayer for the people of Ukraine, for peace, for God’s love to fill in the cracks created by sin. I notice I have a subtle craving for chocolate cake. I wonder if we should have another baby—all my friends on Instagram are, and babies look so cute after a bath, and I really didn’t mind breastfeeding now that I think about it, and I forget what hours of colicky crying can do to a person. If we don’t have a baby this year, we should definitely take a trip to California. Wait. People in Russia and Ukraine are at war right now; why am I thinking about vacation?
I toss my phone into a kitchen drawer and look up. What have my children been doing for the past ten minutes while I got sucked into a void of tiny, compelling squares? One is jumping on the couch, precariously close to the edge, and the other is banging pieces of wooden fruit on the floor.
As I try to process the torrential downpour of information from Instagram and headlines and news clips, it seems as if I am being asked to feel something while simultaneously being anesthetized to it.
Where is the line between so much information that you become desensitized, and not enough so that you drift into apathy? I don’t want to be ignorant or heartless or so privileged that I just go about my comfortable daily life without giving the suffering of the world a second thought. Now that I know this information, I have a responsibility to it. I want to feel something! Do something!
I vaguely recall a Mother Teresa quote, “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.” Is this true? Is this enough?
I join my children in the living room. We cut wooden fruit and they giggle and fuss and settle into my lap for a book. We read Llama Llama, I Love You. I feel their comforting weight and kiss their velvet cheeks and smell peanut butter from the sandwiches they ate for lunch. I think about how many mothers in Ukraine have been robbed of these simple, peaceful moments, and it hurts. I turn the page and keep reading.